Investigator says third phase of Air France crash search delayed by weather, other factors

By Greg Keller, AP
Thursday, March 11, 2010

Search for Air France black boxes delayed

PARIS — The search for the black boxes of an Air France flight that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean while flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris has been delayed by weather conditions and trouble getting a search ship to Brazil, officials said Thursday.

In a statement, the French accident investigation agency BEA blamed “administrative and technical difficulties” along with the poor weather conditions for the delay in starting the third phase of the search, which was supposed to have begun last month.

The agency said it would provide further information on the search on Monday. Flight 447 crashed on June 1, killing all 228 people aboard, and the reason remains unknown.

Two vessels are to take part in the euro10 million ($13.73 million) third phase of the search for wreckage from the Airbus 330 in the mid-Atlantic.

One of the vessels, the Anne Candies, had its departure from the United States delayed by “administrative and technical difficulties,” the agency said. “The beginning of the sea search operations has been put back accordingly,” the agency noted, without saying for how long.

The delay is likely to be a matter of “several days,” said Martine Del Bono, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Del Bono said the Anne Candies had left Louisiana several days late but was now on its way to Recife, Brazil, where it is to meet up with the second search vessel, Seabed Worker.

Last month, the lead investigator said there was a “good chance” the latest search would locate the black box flight recorders to provide crucial information on what went wrong.

The latest search plan — involving U.S. and Norwegian ships, investigators and scientists — covers 770 square miles (2,000 square kilometers) of sea.

The four-week search is the biggest, most expensive operation the BEA has conducted and one of the most complex undersea operations ever, Jean-Paul Troadec, chief of the BEA investigation agency, told reporters last month.

The new search is being jointly financed by Airbus and Air France, and it comes after original search efforts last year cost about euro9 million.

The U.S. Navy and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will help, along with accident experts from Britain, Germany, Russia and Brazil, and private companies.

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